Andrea Switz and her husband, Aaron, had just returned to Minnesota following a trip, when they had a sudden craving for frozen yogurt.
Not just any fro-yo would suffice, she said. They'd enjoyed sampling the offerings of several self-serve frozen yogurt places on the west coast, where customers pick from a variety of flavors and toppings to create their own unique dessert.
The problem, according to Switz, was that the experience they were looking for simply didn't exist in Minnesota.
"We tried a few others, but didn't feel it tasted like the ones we saw out west," she said.
Rather than curse the food gods for overlooking their home state, Switz said they decided it was time to follow their guts and go into business for themselves.
"This business was completely crave driven," Switz said, laughing. "We literally wanted this when we got back from our trip and couldn't find it. The solution was to create it ourselves."
The Yogurt Lab opened its first location back in Dec. 2011 on Excelsior Boulevard in Minneapolis' West Calhoun neighborhood, near Whole Foods. The business has thrived in the year-and-a-half since, so the couple felt it was time to branch out into a few specific spots around the Twin Cities.
One of those new shops will be right around the corner, in the former home of at 50th & France. Switz said the popular shopping destination was a no-brainer when they were trying to decide where to grow their business.
"It's kind of like this family, main street draw for people," she said. "Plus it's a convenient location with all of the parking ramps nearby and great businesses surrounding us."
The current plan is to open the location on the Minneapolis-Edina border the weekend of Sept. 7, and Switz said "the hammers are swinging like mad" to get things ready.
The location is similar in size to their West Calhoun store, as she said they aim for between 1,300 and 1,800 square feet of retail space. A large kitchen will be located in the basement of the building, with the upstairs serving as a dispensing and seating area.
Rachel Thelemann, executive director of the 50th & France Business and Professional Association, said the district is thrilled with the addition of The Yogurt Lab—among other new stores—as it helps maintain a variety of shopping options.
"It adds another layer of 'destination' stores for our everyday shopper," Thelemann said. "The new stores add more variety if you are shopping for kids, men, women or just want an ice-cream with yummy toppings."
The Southwest Minneapolis location is one of three new Yogurt Labs, with others planned to open in the skyway level of the IDS Center in downtown Minneapolis as well as in Stadium Village, near the University of Minnesota.
Switz jokes she feels as though she currently has four 30-hour-a-week jobs. Between opening three new locations in the next month or so, being a full-time mom and setting up a headquarters for the rapidly expanding business, she doesn't have a lot of free time.
"We're in massive growth mode right now," Switz said. "Growing in all directions."
When customers walk into the science-themed fro-yo shop, they're greeted by massive stacks of empty 16-oz. white cups, a wall of 16 different yogurt dispensers and more toppings than you can shake a spoon at.
"You can go in there and have a healthy snack with fruit, granola and some sugar free yogurt, or you can completely indulge with triple chocolate yogurt, cookie dough and coconut," Switz said. "It's a very individualized experience."
The Yogurt Lab has around 60 flavors in constant rotation—including avocado, watermelon, salted caramel and green apple—with 2-4 new ones coming through every week or so. Switz said it's designed to keep things "fresh and new."
While Switz is absolutely swamped for the time being, she said the entire team is getting excited to launch their new store.
"We've been so overwhelmingly flattered by the reception," she said. "We're so happy to be in the neighborhood and hopefully it'll become another 50th & France destination."